East Surrey Regiment3rd Bn The East Surrey Regiment


The 3rd (Reserve) Bn, The East Surrey Regiment, which for nearly a century before the introduction of the Territorial system in 1881 was known as the 1st Royal Surrey Militia, could trace its descent from the “Fyrd” of Saxon times. Not for the only time in its history it stood to arms ready to repel invaders when, as part of the Militia, it assembled at Tilbury in anticipation of the coming of the Spanish Armada. Obviously distinctive, it was specially selected to furnish 500 men for a bodyguard for the Queen.

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In succeeding years the Surrey Militia, as it had become known, furnished contingents to the various expeditionary forces dispatched overseas but in 1642, on the outbreak of the Civil War between Charles I and his Parliament, they were employed on active home service as part of the Parliamentary Army covering London. Its Headquarters were at Tottenham with detachments at Farnham and Kingston.

Soon after the restoration in 1660, Charles II, mindful no doubt of the misfortunes of his father, vested the control of the Militia, estimated at 130,000 men, in the hands of the Crown. In the Great Fire of London in 1666 the Surrey Militia, following general orders which had been issued by the King, marched to Lambeth with carts containing fire fighting implements. (Lambeth, incidentally, became the site of the London Fire Brigade Headquarters in 1937).

The outbreak of the Seven Years War and the introduction by George III of Hessian and Hanoverian troops into the country for defensive purposes, caused a resentful populace to take renewed interest in its own Militia amid a spirit of revival.

Lords-Lieutenant of counties hastily raised personnel and Surrey had companies at ten locations including Guildford, Kingston, Croydon and Farnham. Acting in a law enforcement capacity the Surrey Militia took an active part in the defence of London during the Gordon Riots in 1780.

For the next hundred years the 1st Royal Surrey Militia experienced varying periods of disembodiment and re-embodiment according to the political climate of the times but it managed to retain its identity and in 1872 it was affiliated to the 70th (Surrey) Regiment, later to become the 2nd Bn East Surrey Regiment. With the introduction of the Territorial system in 1881 the 1st Royal Surrey Militia became the 3rd Bn The East Surrey Regiment.

In the South African War the battalion volunteered for overseas service and embarked in the transport Idaho at Southampton on 5th June 1901, to disembark at Port Elizabeth on 1st July. Engaged on communication and guard duties, the Battalion lost two of its officers, Lieutenant Lyon and Major Crofton on active service. Returning to Southampton in July 1902, the battalion was then disembodied.

From 1904-1914 the battalion carried out annual training and in 1908 under Territorial Force re-organisation it became part of the Special Reserve.

On the outbreak of war the Battalion was embodied at Kingston on 8th August 1914, and from thence went straight to the Grand Shaft Barracks and Land Defences at Dover where it remained throughout the war until November 1918. As well as garrison duties it acted as a training and draft finding unit. During the period of the war 911 officers served with the Battalion and 19,040 men passed through its ranks. Of the latter 13,029 were dispatched overseas and 6,011 were transferred to other units in the United Kingdom.

Many officers of the 3rd Battalion met their deaths while serving with other units, some of them noticeably with the newly formed Royal Flying Corps and, later, Royal Air Force. One survivor of the latter was Captain S C W Smith who received the Distinguished Service Order. After a brief spell in Glasgow during labour troubles in the City in February 1919 the Battalion was disembodied at Clipstone Camp in Northhamptonshire on 31st July 1919.


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